Our objective was to assess the accuracy of earned workhours in customer service operations in the Tennessee District.
Customer service operations consist of employees at post offices, stations, and branches involved in mail distribution, retail window, and miscellaneous administrative operations. The U.S. Postal Service uses the Customer Service Adjusted Workload (CSAW) and Customer Service Variance (CSV) models to optimize retail and customer service operations.
The CSAW model is used daily to record the actual workload in customer service units. Supervisors input actual workload for manual distribution of letters and flats volume in this system. Once input is complete, Postal Service data systems automatically upload manual package volume and retail transactions to the CSAW model. This workload data generates earned workhours by a Labor Distribution Code, a two-digit number used to identify major employee activities and compile workhours.
The Postal Service measures customer service operations performance using the CSV model, which incorporates data from the CSAW model. CSV calculates earned workhours based on actual mail volume and target productivity. The actual mail volume for customer service units is downloaded to CSV from several data systems, including the Web End-of-Run and eFlash systems, along with retail transactions and workhours from the Windows Operating Survey. The CSV model compares earned workhours to actual workhours, a measurement called the variance achievement. The CSV model measures a unit’s variance achievement against the national performance target for their expected workload.
The Tennessee District operated over 200 post offices, stations, and branches from October 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. The Tennessee District processed 319 million pieces of mail, received 11.5 million customer visits, processed more than 21.4 million retail window transactions, and generated retail revenue totaling $137.2 million.
We selected the Tennessee District because of the large number of units that exceeded or did not meet the customer service performance measurement.
What the OIG Found
Opportunities exist to improve the accuracy of customer service operations earned workhours in the Tennessee District. Our analysis of 14 customer service units showed earned workhours for retail transactions and mail volume was not always accurate to perform daily operations. Specifically:
- Passport transactions at six of 14 (43 percent) customer service units were not properly initiated in the Point-of-Sale (POS) system.
- Lobby assistant duties at seven of 14 (50 percent) customer service units were not always recorded in the POS system.
- Secondary mail volume (mail received not in delivery point sequence) at three of 10 (30 percent) customer service units with post office boxes were not always recorded in the CSAW model.
- Parcel mail volume was incorrectly recorded in the CSAW at three of four (75 percent) customer service units co-located with processing and distribution centers.
- Allied operations, which is the time used by personnel to set up and stage mail equipment, exceeded earned workhours at one unit (7 percent).
These conditions occurred because:
- Customer service personnel did not have a process in place that clearly instructed them to begin passport transactions immediately in the POS system.
- Management did not enforce the policy that requires customer service operations personnel to record non-revenue transactions on a checklist and input these transactions every half hour in the POS system.
- Customer service personnel were not aware of the requirement to record secondary mail volume in CSAW.
- Plant personnel did not ensure correct mail volume from mail processing equipment and did not input correct mail volume data in CSAW.
- One facility’s infrastructure and space limitations hindered package distribution and office operations inside the building.
Customer service operations rely on accurate workload data to establish earned workhours for staffing in units. Inaccurate workload and earned workhours increased the district’s overtime and penalty overtime workhours. The Tennessee District’s use of additional overtime and penalty overtime workhours resulted in $4.3 million in questioned cost annually. Improving workload and earned workhours could eliminate excess overtime and penalty overtime and help the district realize a cost avoidance of about $114,316 annually.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management:
- Develop a standard operating procedure to instruct customer service personnel to begin passport transactions immediately in the POS system.
- Reinforce the importance of adhering to customer service procedures for recording non-revenue transactions.
- Reinforce the importance of adhering to customer service procedures for recording secondary mail volume in the CSAW system.
- Ensure plant personnel research and resolve mail processing equipment malfunctions and record accurate mail volume data for customer service units co-located with processing and distribution centers.
- Continue with a feasibility of facility modification review at the Concord Annex and other facilities with similar issues throughout the district.